Lilienfeld, a Cistercian Abbey fifteen miles south of St. Polten, Lower Austria, was founded in 1202 by Leopold the Glorious, Margrave of Austria, the first monks being supplied from the monastery of Heiligen Kreus near Vienna. The early history of the foundation presents no exceptional features, but as time went on the monastery became one of the richest and most influential in the empire, the abbots not infrequently acting as councillors to the emperor. Perhaps the most remarkable in the whole long series was Matthew Kollweis (1650-1695) who, when the Turks advanced against Vienna, literally turned his monastery into a fortress, installing a garrison and giving shelter to a large number of fugitives. In 1789 Emperor Joseph II decreed the suppression of the abbey and the spoliation was actually begun. The archives, manuscripts, and valuables of all kinds were carried away to Vienna, the library was dispersed, and the monuments in the church mostly removed or destroyed. Luckily, however, Joseph II died before the ruin was completed and one of the first acts of his successor, Leopold II, was to reverse the decree suppressing Lilienfeld, which thus preserved its ancient territorial possessions. In 1810 a disastrous fire ravaged the abbey buildings, but the church, considered one of the finest in the empire, fortunately escaped damage. The ruined monastery was afterwards restored at great expense and is now a fine specimen of the Austrian type of abbey ; vast, somewhat heavy in style and suggesting in its outward appearance the power and dignity of an institution which has survived from feudal times. In 1910 the community numbered forty-nine choir monks, the abbot being Dom Justin Panschab. The abbey belongs to the Austro-Hungarian Congregation Communis observantiœ in which the observance, both as regards spirit and tradition, is allied far more closely to that of the Black Monks of St. Benedict, than to the reform of Abbot de Rancé, commonly known as the Trappist Congregation.
St. Matthew the Apostle
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